The C8 Corvette is notably quicker than the C7 and it’s due to the DCT gearbox as well

The 2020 Chevrolet C8 Corvette broke cover with a dual-clutch, eight-speed automatic transmission and no option for a manual. This is a premier for the nameplate, which was offered with both manual and automatic transmissions from 1953 until 2018. Granted, the dual-clutch automatic makes the C8 Corvette the quickest of its kind, but will this be enough to keep manual transmission enthusiasts happy? After almost 70 years with a manual on offer, an automatic-only is a hard pill to swallow. Here’s why.

The Chevy Corvette had a manual since the C1 days

1953 - 1962 Chevrolet Corvette C1 High Resolution Exterior
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The three-speed manual became standard on the C1 Corvette in 1956

When the first-generation Corvette arrived in 1953, it didn’t have a manual transmission. Because Chevy didn’t have a manual capable of handling the C1’s 150-horsepower rating, the Corvette was originally available with a two-speed Powerglide automatic only. Pressured by the fact that the Corvette’s British and Italian competitors all had manual transmissions, Chevy introduced a three-speed manual in 1955. The manual gearbox was the result of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s first involvement in the Corvette project. Duntov also improved the car’s marketing and image and turned the Corvette into a popular sports car and a solid competitor for the Ford Thunderbird.

The three-speed manual became standard in 1956, while the Powerglide automatic was turned into an optional feature. An upgraded, four-speed manual transmission was introduced for the 1957 model year and remained in the C1 Corvette until the car was discontinued in 1962.

1969 Chevrolet Corvette 427/430 L88 Exterior
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Chevy didn't revise any of the C3 Corvette's manual transmissions until 1970

Having learned of the benefits of having a manual transmission in a sports car, Chevy equipped the C2-generation with a row-your-own transmission as well. Actually, the three-speed and four-speed manual gearboxes were carried over (with small improvements) from the C1 Corvette. In 1964 though, Chevy replaced the Borg-Warner four-speed with an in-house gearbox. It has a similar design with an aluminum case like the Borg-Wagner box, but it featured stronger synchronizers and wider ratios for improved durability. The C2 retired with the four-speed unit in 1967.

The third-generation Corvette arrived with similar options in 1968. While the two-speed automatic was replaced with the three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic, the manual gearboxes were carried over from the C2. Chevy didn’t revise any of the manuals until 1970 when the four-speed featured wider ratios and became the standard unit. A notable feature, the ZR1 and ZR2 packages were restricted to the manual gearbox. The latter was a popular choice in 1968, with 82 percent of C3 Corvettes equipped with a manual. However, three-pedal versions went out of style by the late 1970s. In 1979, only 20 percent of Corvettes were equipped with manuals. Production of the C3 Corvette ended in 1982 with no further modifications made to the four-speed manual.

Shifting to the six-speed manual

The 2020 Chevy C8 Corvette is the first 'Vette without a manual gearbox and you shouldn't be upset
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In 1990, Chevrolet commissioned a bespoke version of the six-speed manual for the higher performance ZR-1 model

The Corvette’s days with a four-speed manual came to an end in 1983, when Chevy introduced the C4-generation car. The old four-speed was replaced with a 4+3 transmission by Doug Nash. An unusual design, this gearbox was essentially a four-speed manual, but it was coupled to an automatic overdrive on the top three gears. This transmission didn’t last very long in the C4 though, as it was replaced with a more modern six-speed manual from ZF in 1988. This gearbox was offered alongside a four-speed automatic.

In 1990, Chevrolet commissioned a bespoke version of the six-speed manual for the higher performance ZR-1 model. This gearbox featured Computer Aided Gear Selection (CAGS), which shifted the gears from first to fourth under low power urban driving conditions, and a lower final drive ratio. Production of the C4 Corvette lasted until 1996, and the six-speed manual remained available despite small demand.

2001 - 2004 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (C5)
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For the C5, Chevrolet replaced the ZF manual with a six-speed from Borg-Warner

The fifth-generation Corvette that followed continued as a two-transmission sports car, offering both manual and automatic gearboxes. But while the four-speed automatic carried over from the C4, Chevrolet replaced the ZF manual with a six-speed from Borg-Warner. This new transmission was capable of a higher top speed of 175 mph, thus enabling the C5 to be quicker. The new manual also enabled the C5 to return up to 28 mpg on the highway, allowing it to avoid the gas guzzler tax. Just like the C4, the C5’s manual featured Computer-Aided Gear Shifting that shifted from first gear directly into fourth gear under certain driving condition.

A revised version of this transmission was used in the Z06, a successor to the previous C4 ZR-1. The C5 Z06 wasn’t offered with an automatic transmission.

In 2004, Chevrolet introduced the C6 Corvette. The then-new sports car also featured a six-speed manual, but again, Chevy ditched the old design for a newer unit. In this case, the Borg-Wagner gearbox was replaced with Tremec’s T-56 transmission. Again fitted with Computer-Aided Gear Shifting, it forced drivers to shift from first gear directly into the fourth gear while driving at low rpm.

2014 - 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Interior
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Chevrolet remained loyal to Tremec when it redesigned the Corvette in 2014

The T-56 gearbox lasted for only three years in the C6 Corvette. For the 2008 model year, when Chevrolet introduced a new LS3 engine, the C6 adopted a new Tremec gearbox called the TR6060. This transmission was used in the higher-performance Z06 and ZR1 models as well. Of course, both had certain upgrades to handle the extra power. The TR6060 in the Z06 was rated at up to 500 pound-feet of torque, while the one in the ZR1 could handle up to 650 pound-feet of twist.

Chevrolet remained loyal to Tremec when it redesigned the Corvette in 2014. However, the manual now featured an extra cog over the C6. The Tremec TR-6070 seven-speed manual in the C7 was joined by a six-speed automatic at first and an eight-speed automatic from 2015. The manual transmission featured active rev-matching and a drive mode selector with five settings, including Sport and Track. The subsequent Z06 and ZR1 high-performance models were available with both automatic and manual transmissions. The manual was a revised version of the Stingray’s standard Tremec TR-6070. To be discontinued in September 2019, the C7 Corvette will remain the final ’Vette with a manual transmission.

Stop hoping, the manual isn’t coming back

The 2020 Chevy C8 Corvette is the first 'Vette without a manual gearbox and you shouldn't be upset
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The Corvette's lead engineer confirmed that the C8 won't have a manual transmission

Although it’s not unprecedented for a production car to debut with an automatic and gain a manual later on, it’s not going to happen for the C8 Corvette. That’s not just a rumor, but a statement from Corvette lead engineer Tadge Juechter. Questioned whether the C8 will become available with a manual at some point, Juechter replied with a firm "no." He argued that sales of a manual-equipped Corvette would be too low to make sense financially, especially since the C8 Corvette would need a bespoke gearbox.

“We couldn’t find anybody honestly who’d be willing to do it. Because just like the automatic, the DCT, it would have to be a bespoke manual. It’s low volume, very expensive. The reason is it’s a low-volume industry. That industry is dying — building manual transmissions,” said Juechter.

"Every year it goes down, down, down, down," he added, noting that sales of manual C7 Corvettes have dropped to only 15 percent of total production. "The people who make a living building manual transmissions, they see that it’s not a bright future for them,” he explained.

Should you be upset?

The 2020 Chevy C8 Corvette is the first 'Vette without a manual gearbox and you shouldn't be upset
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The DCT comes with plenty of advantages, including upshifts that take only a few milliseconds

As an old-school enthusiast, I can’t say I’m particularly happy about the C8 not having a manual. But I’m not very upset either. Manual transmissions are simply dying, and the three-pedal sports cars are living their final years on the market. Automakers like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren have already given up on manuals, so it was time for the Corvette to drop it too, especially since the C8 is a mid-engined car.

Does this mean that the C8 won’t as fun? By no means. Mind you, the C8 Corvette doesn’t come with an automatic, but a dual-clutch gearbox tuned for spirited driving. While it may be automatic, the DCT behaves like a manual transmission. That’s mostly because it features two separate clutches for odd and even gears. In simpler terms, two manual transmissions with their respective clutches are contained within one "box" and work as one unit.

The 2020 Chevy C8 Corvette is the first 'Vette without a manual gearbox and you shouldn't be upset
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The C8 Corvette is almost a second quicker to 60 mph than the C7

The DCT comes with plenty of advantages, including upshifts that take only a few milliseconds. This results in quicker acceleration. The DCT is also smoother than any other transmission available, eliminating the shift shocks that come with manuals and even some automatics. Third, it delivers improved fuel economy simply because power flow from the engine to the transmission is not interrupted. Studies show that DCTs can deliver up to 10 percent better mileage than automatics.

While most of these advantages aren’t immediately noticeable, the C8 Corvette is definitely quicker. While the C7 Corvette needed 3.8 seconds to hit 60 mph, the C8 Corvette will get there in "less than three." The official rating will probably stand at 2.9 seconds, which is almost a second quicker than the C7. That’s definitely impressive. What’s more, the C8 Corvette should do better at the race track. After all, Chevy’s dual-clutch was heavily inspired by Porsche’s PDK unit, and we know how quick the German cars equipped with this DCT are on and off the track.

Granted, an important piece of Corvette history just died together with the manual transmission, but the future is bright when it comes to performance.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray drivetrain specifications
Type: LT2 6.2L V8 VVT with direct injection and Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation)
Bore & stroke (in / mm): 4.06 x 3.62 / 103.25 x 92
Block Material: A319-T7 cast aluminum with cast-in iron cylinder liners and nodular main bearing caps
Oiling System: Dry sump-type (7.5-qt. capacity); includes oil-spray piston cooling
Oil Type: Dexos 2 0W40 synthetic
Cylinder Head Material: 319-T7 cast aluminum
Combustion Chamber volume: 59cc
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Valvetrain: Overhead valve, two valves per cylinder; dual-equal variable valve timing.
Valve Size (in / mm): 2.13 / 54 hollow (intake) & 1.59 / 40.4 sodium filled (exhaust)
Fuel Delivery: Direct injection with Active Fuel Management: Max pressure: 2,175 psi (15 Mpa / 150 bar)
Firing Order: 1-8-7-2-6-5-4-3 (all cylinders); 1-7-6-4 (with deactivation)
Throttle body: 87mm single bore (electronic)
ECU: GM E99 (32-bit processing)
Horsepower (hp / kW @ rpm): SAE-certified to 495 / 369 @ 6450 rpm (with performance exhaust)
Torque (lb.-ft./ Nm @ rpm): SAE-certified to 470 / 637 @ 5150 rpm (with performance exhaust)

Further reading

The 2020 Chevy C8 Corvette is the first 'Vette without a manual gearbox and you shouldn't be upset
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Wait, the All-New 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 is Priced How Much?!

The 9 Mid-Engine Corvette Concepts That Didn't Make it To Production
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Read all about the mid-engined Corvette concepts that never made it to production!

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Zora ZR1 Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Read our speculative review of the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Zora ZR1

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Exterior
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Read our full review of the 2019 Chevy Corvette ZR1

1953 - 1962 Chevrolet Corvette C1 High Resolution Exterior
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Read up on the 1953-1962 Chevy C1 Corvette

1963 - 1968 Chevrolet Corvette C2 High Resolution Exterior
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Check out our review of the 1963-1968 Chevy C2 Corvette

1969 Chevrolet Corvette 427/430 L88 Exterior
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Read our in-depth review of the 1969 Chevy Corvette 427 C3

2001 - 2004 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (C5)
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Read up on our review of the 1997-2004 Chevy C5 Corvette

2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport High Resolution Exterior
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Read up on the 2005-2013 Chevy C6 Corvette

2014 - 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Check out our full review of the 2014-2019 Chevy C7 Corvette

The 9 Mid-Engine Corvette Concepts That Didn't Make it To Production
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The 9 concepts that led to the mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette C8

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